Positron emission tomography was used to investigate changes in regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) in neurologically normal subjects during word reading and word repetition. The blood flow in these conditions was compared with control conditions where subjects were presented with stimuli of comparable auditory and visual complexity to real words and said the same word on presentation of each stimulus. The control condition for word repetition (hearing spoken words presented backwards) resulted in bilateral activation of the superior temporal gyrus. Word repetition caused a significant increase in rCBF over this control condition in the left superior and middle temporal gyri. The control condition for word reading (seeing stimuli written in 'false fonts', i. e. non-existent letter-like forms) resulted in significant changes in rCBF bilaterally in the striate and extrastriate cortex. Word reading caused a significant increase in blood flow relative to this control in the posterior part of the left middle temporal gyrus. The implications of these results are discussed, and it is argued that they are consistent with localization of a lexicon for spoken word recognition in the middle part of the left superior and middle temporal gyri, and a lexicon for written word recognition in the posterior part of the left middle temporal gyrus.